“Behind every successful business is a good story.”
But that’s just the beginning. Many people do not realize that Walt Disney was a teller of tales, not a creator of stories.
These days as a marketer you’re trying to reach an audience that’s already feeling overwhelmed. More and more, they’ve also heard a lot of stories.
Starting with a good story — a story that supports your business strategy — is just the beginning. You have to communicate your story.
I’ve seen some compelling, suspenseful stories presented like paragraphs from a badly written college textbook. And I’ve seen good-enough stories presented so enthusiastically, the audience hung on every word — and remembered the speaker, too.
How does one become a good storyteller? What are small nuances that turn a story from so-so to suspenseful? What are must-have standards? What extremely positive examples must be taken as inspiration?
These 7 techniques will help you get started as you seek to tell stories that will get your audience to say, “Tell me more!”
(1) Make Your Story Come Alive.
Many writing courses emphasize the “Show, don’t tell” rule, especially in any kind of narrative writing. Your challenge is to help the reader feel they’re living an experience, not listening passively.
So instead of, “He was clumsy,” you say, “He banged into the table and knocked over a chair.” You go heavy on action words, description, and details and light on the adjectives and adverbs.
(2) Don’t be too easy on your hero.
Unlike the classical “beginning, middle, and end” stories, marketing stories begin with a problem.
But to keep your audience engaged, marketing stories need to incorporate an element that’s common to most good stories: conflict.
Here’s a story from Gloria, a home schooling mom:
I’ve stayed home with my own kids since my first son was born ten weeks early. It took a LOT of time for me to prepare preschool activities for my boys.
“When I started home-schooling, I would spend at least 4 hours prepping each day. I was totally exhausted and frazzled by noon…and was getting by on just a few hours’ sleep. My husband and my other kids were feeling neglected.
“People told me to forget about homeschooling and send my son to a regular school…”
That’s the first conflict. Gloria had a second conflict:
“Even when I found an activity they loved, I still wondered if it was the right activity to support their educational development. Or was it just a fun way to spend some time together?”
When I first heard the story, I found myself wondering: “Will Gloria find an answer? Did she give up?” And I don’t even have kids.
(3) Think like a mystery writer.
Fans of murder mysteries will recognize this pattern. Around page 240 the hero seems to solve the mystery. As a reader, you start to relax and wait for the fun part of wrapping everything up.
But you’ve got another 75 pages to go. That’s way too long to celebrate the victory.
Sure enough, just as you and the hero get ready to say “The End,” the author introduces a twist.
You thought the butler did it, but he’s got an airtight alibi. And the heroine’s boyfriend is acting mighty suspicious.
From our earlier example: Gloria found a solution to her son’s learning needs…
but now she faces a new plot twist: How do you adapt this popular Montessori program — designed for groups of children nursery schools — to the chaotic home environment of a busy mom?
After you solve the first problem, you’ve got an even tougher problem…and that’s the story that sells.
(4) Replace “Get Personal” with “Relate To Your Audience.”
Recently a business owner told a rather long story about the insights she’d achieved at a yoga retreat in one of those five-figure cruises to a South Seas destination.
Her whole life was transformed. Events that would have turned her into a nail-biting mess now leave her calm and confident.
But will this story resonate with her readers?
This type of retreat isn’t just expensive. It requires a level of intensity, commitment, and fitness that will be beyond the level of many readers.
I’m currently trying to do yoga myself, via online classes. I go for the easy poses and plan to stay at the beginner level for the rest of my life. So the story held some relevance.
A year ago? I wouldn’t have gotten past the first sentence.
(5) Get your audience involved.
During a traditional theatre presentation, the actors rarely try to break the fourth wall. You can bring your audience into your business story with lines like, “Imagine you were looking over my shoulder.”
Or, “Picture yourself on an airplane and I’m sitting in the seat next to yours.”
(6) Create empathetic characters.
There’s no stock formula for characters, beyond having a protagonist. An adversary
adds interest. You can engage your audience by providing details about the characters and giving them distinct personalities.
When you’re the hero of your own story, you have to present yourself as likeable — not a know-it-all, not someone preaching to your audience from a superior position.
Here’s a tip: Create heroes who resemble your ideal client.
If you want to work with financial planners on designing websites, make the hero a financial planner who needs a website.
(7) Commit to your characters with dialogue.
If you want to work with moms of young children, make the hero a mom and give her some kids with carefully chosen ages and temperaments. Do you teach moms how to handle kids who resist parenting…help them get their angelic brilliant children into Ivy League schools?
Dialogue makes your character come alive. When you change your tone and vocal style to match the characters, you show commitment to your characters. Ideally, your audience will recognize “Uncle Jim” and “Harry the business owner” just by their speaking style.
Dialogue grabs attention, whether written or spoken. You don’t need to be funny. You can be dramatic, serious or playful.
Bonus tip: Use stories that reinforce your brand.
Business owners can feel pressured by the advice to, “Tell a story…any story!” So they create a story that’s entertaining but doesn’t support their brand..
Tell stories in a style that will match your brand.
Your brand evolves as your business grows. You’ll need to find new stories to match your new brand.
I hope you can apply at least one of these tips in the near future. When you do, please drop me a line and let me know what you did. What was your audience’s reaction? How did you benefit?
Most of these tips come from my Amazon Kindle book, Grow Your Business One Story At A Time. You can download at http://mycopy.info/kbstory
Check out my course – How to give a memorable 5-minute talk.
You don’t need a kindle to read this book. Use any computer or device. And if you’re a member of Kindle Unlimited, the book will be free!